Lately I’ve been hooked on “Dateline” reruns. The stories they tell are absolutely shocking. People have said to me, “Jen, all you have to do is watch the beginning and then tune in near the end, it pretty much ties it all up and you can do other things during that time.”
True, I suppose, but I like to see how the police work. I like to watch the unfolding, so to say. I’ve always been a bit of a detective at heart. OK, so yes, I’m a bit of a wimp who could never do the incredible job that the members of our law enforcement do, but I can often sum up the whodunit.
There are two particular “Dateline” episodes that parallel each other. Both are about missing girls from Placentia, a suburb just outside of Orange County. Cathy Torrez and Lynsie Ekelund both had attended Cal State Fullerton. Cathy never returned home one evening after work and Lynsie went out with friends one evening, and she too never came home.
Cathy was an honor student who was working two jobs to put herself through college. She had a radiant smile, was energetic and loved by her family; yet on the evening of Feb. 12, 1994 she never arrived home after work.
Her body was found a few days later in the trunk of her car. She had been stabbed more than 70 times and, according to the evidence, was still alive when she was put in the trunk. For years her former boyfriend was a suspect. Over two decades, with the work of the detective and Sgt. Daron Wyatt, prosecutor Matt Murphy and “The Evidence Whisperer” Larry Montgomery, the perpetrator eventually was brought to trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison.
The last time Ekelund talked to her mother was the afternoon of Feb. 16, 2001, when she called to cancel their usual Friday night dinner. She said she was going to spend the night at a girlfriend’s house in Anaheim. Instead she ended up going with several friends to San Diego.
As the episode continued, it mentioned Lynsie had actually stayed that evening at Christopher McAmis’ house; he had joined her and her friends on the trip to San Diego. He was questioned originally and finally, after nearly a decade, confessed to strangling her after he attempted to rape her.
That confession, in part, can be attributed to the keen detective work of Montgomery (“The Evidence Whisperer”) and his ability to look deep into the case and find the missing link that would in essence “connect the dots.”
Placentia Police Detective Corrine Loomis recalled, “For many years we were often in a place of ‘Yes, you did,’ ‘No, I didn’t,’ ‘Yes, you did,’ ‘No, I didn’t,’ with Christopher McAmis.”
Detectives eventually confronted McAmis with fresh evidence, including enhanced ATM camera footage that contradicted his statement that he had driven up Rose Drive in Placentia and gone home after dropping Lynsie off.
When confronted with the new evidence, McAmis realized he had nowhere really to go, so he then told a different story, admitting to attempting to rape Ekelund at his apartment in Whittier, then strangling her in the struggle. He told authorities he drove more than 50 miles to a Santa Clarita construction site where he worked, and buried her body beneath several feet of soil in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2001.
Her remains were found in 2010 near LARC Ranch. Finally, some peace for her family and friends — never the outcome you would want, but a sense of closure.
If it weren’t for the diligence of families, law enforcement, the district attorney and “The Evidence Whisperer,” these would have ended up as two more cold cases. Instead, they are “cases closed.”
Two young lives taken too soon. The precious gift of life cut short by two criminals, who were never held accountable for their previous actions of anger, jealousy and sheer egocentrism. At least now they cannot hurt anyone as they both have plenty of time to think about what they did for the rest of their lives behind bars.
And for the two young ladies, rest in peace, sweet angels. Justice has been served.
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.